Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 113: Relationship Needs

Lark (The Dreamer): Hey there Ivy!

Ivy (The Companion): Good morning Lark.

(Lark exchanges a brief but heartfelt hug with Ivy.)

Lark: It’s been nice having you around again… And it’s always nice to see you, Mom.

(Lark turns to me and gives me a hug as well.)

Mom (Me): Likewise, dear daughter. How are you both?

Lark (cheery): No complaints!

Ivy (pensive): I’ve been thinking about something…

Lark: There’s your mistake — Thinking caused all sorts of trouble.

Mom (dry): Very funny, Lark.

Lark: I thought it was a little clever.

Ivy: I didn’t mind it. Regardless, my mind keeps drifting back to polyamory.

Lark (concerned): Are we *ready* to talk about polyamory? We’ve never… Practiced it before.

Ivy: I know… But I can’t see any way of avoiding it anymore.

Mom: In that case, we’d have to make it clear that we’re not experts. We lack practical knowledge and haven’t even studied it much, so we can only talk about it from an emotional standpoint in relation to our current way of living. That’s the only way we could cover the topic responsibly, I think.

Lark: Okay, you’ve just done that, so now what?

Mom: Let’s start with why the concept seems unavoidable.

Ivy: First, I think it’s because we’ve always felt polyamorous — the idea of committing ourselves to one relationship has scared us for a long time. Having romantic entanglements with multiple people has always felt more natural.

Lark: Okay sure, but it’s a little surprising to hear that from *you.* It was easy for *me* to feel that way since I wasn’t seriously seeing anyone, whereas *your* relationship got so serious that you got married.

Ivy (embarrassed): I know.

Lark: You even talked explicitly about polyamory with your partner, and made a conscious decision to forgo relationships with other people when you married them. You bragged about that compromise, if memory serves.

Ivy: I know, I know… But that was when I felt like the compromise had actually worked. Besides, it doesn’t feel fair to hold me to that anymore — I made that decision before transition. I barely had the emotional capacity for *one* relationship back then. Now that I know I’m a woman, my emotions have opened up *so much* and it feels like there’s room in my heart for several people.

Lark: Okay, but choosing to pursue other relationships is still a choice. Why not choose to stay monogamous?

Ivy (hesitant): I have different physical and emotional needs now that my body is running on estrogen…. Needs that my relationship with my partner isn’t fulfilling.

Mom: Needs like…

Ivy (desperate): Like romantic closeness! Like physical intimacy. Like genuine interest in our creative pursuits, which are so important to us.

Mom (sighing): I have to admit I find those things much more important than I used to… Though our society would hardly approve of practicing polyamory under those circumstances.

Ivy (annoyed): Which is so *frustrating!* In our society, you’re only allowed one romantic relationship, so all of your romantic needs *must* be fulfilled by that relationship.

Mom: It doesn’t feel fair, honestly. Society’s answer is to either find a way for your existing partner to meet every need, or compromise on needs such that one partner forgoes theirs for “the good of the relationship.” In a heterosexual relationship the woman is typically expected to sacrifice herself — fortunately that expectation doesn’t seem to apply to queer partnerships.

Ivy: Yes! I don’t want our partner to sacrifice herself or make herself uncomfortable for us.

Mom: I don’t feel it’s fair to expect a single person to meet every one of another person’s needs. That seems like an unrealistic expectation that sets a relationship up for failure from the start.

Lark: Hang on though, what about your partner?

Mom: She should have the opportunity to pursue other partnerships too — we shouldn’t be expected to meet all of her needs either.

Lark: Shouldn’t we try though?

Mom (exasperated): We *have* tried! We’ve *been* trying for over a decade, and granted, there’s no reason to stop trying. Even seeing other people is no reason to stop trying. At some point though, it seems prudent to stop bashing our collective heads against a wall that has yet to show any signs of yielding. Eventually we have to entertain alternatives.

Lark: But our partner doesn’t *want* other partners. She’s monogamous.

Ivy: Granted, but she has unmet needs too; polyamory could open things up for both of us. Besides, we’re not just expecting her to come around to our way of thinking eventually. It’s something we’re working through in couples therapy.

Mom: I’m explicitly not pursuing other romantic relationships until we have our partner’s consent. I’m not just going to do this on my own, with complete disregard for my existing partner. This is a journey for both of us, just like every other stage in our relationship.

Lark (pensive): That feels equitable, at least… Though there’s one more thing that bothers me about pursuing polyamory though. It feels kind of like a… Gendered thing, doesn’t it? Like something men do.

Mom: Men in heterosexual relationships who want to open them up because they feel unsatisfied have very different expectations though, don’t they? They have fantasies of a relationship where they get to pursue other women freely, but their partners have no such option. They expect to have veto power over any of their partner’s relationships, or expect their partners not to have other male partners… It’s an inherently coercive relationship, and I have no interest in it.

Ivy: We want an equitable partnership where our partners have similar expectations as us, and are bound by similar agreements.

Mom: It would be an arrangement where communication is absolutely key, though that’s true of any relationship. To be honest, it’s not something we’re actually prepared to embark on anyways. We’ve heard that trying to engage in multiple relationships without learning about how they work first is a really good way to hurt people you really care about. We’ve been recommended some good books on the subject — Jessica Fern’s *Polysecure* and Franklin Veaux’s *More Than Two* come to mind.

Lark: So our desire for polyamory is still there, but we’re not in a position to act on it anytime soon, and even if we were, we don’t have the knowledge to do it safely. So why are we focusing so much on this?

Ivy (desperate): Because I can’t stop thinking about it. Because I want sensation and intimacy and those desires aren’t going anywhere. Even if we’re going to have to revisit this topic again when I know more, it takes up enough space in my head that it’s worth addressing now, if for no other reason than to understand where these feelings are coming from.

Mom: It’s worth pointing out that intimate relationships don’t have to be romantic… Which I know from experience, having formed an intimate, non-romantic relationship since transition. Just because it’s not romantic doesn’t mean it isn’t fulfilling.

Ivy: That’s very true… Besides, we’re all working hard here in the headspace. That’s going to be a priority regardless of what happens outside our head. The more we can do here, the better off all of our relationships will be.

Mom (smiling): Well stated, Ivy. Do you feel satisfied leaving there for now?

Ivy: Yeah… I think so. Thanks Mom.